Hare - year 5/6
Thursday Thought - 1st April 2021
ridicule is the first and last argument of a fool
Charles Simmons - American editor and novelist
Happy April Fool’s Day.
Every year, April 1st is marked with friends playing pranks on one another and pulling each other’s legs without any guilt. All because it’s April Fool’s Day! April Fools' Day is celebrated in many countries every year. People have set aside a special day for playing jokes for centuries. The day was first celebrated in Europe but soon spread across different parts of the world. The ancient Romans had a holiday called Hilaria which was celebrated at the end of March and involved people dressing up in disguises. In the 16th century, France celebrated the New Year just like we do today, except they partied on April 1st. In 1562, Pope Gregory changed the calendar to the one we use today and from then on, the New Year began on January 1st. Lots of people didn't know about the new calendar, or they ignored the new calendar and kept celebrating on April 1st. Everyone else called them April fools and played tricks on them.
However, as I shared with the children in assembly today, April Fools' practical jokes should be done in good humour and they are not meant to harm anyone. The best jokes are the clever ones where everyone laughs, especially the person who had the joke played on them. But when humor exists at the expense of people's dignity and self esteem, when humor is an indicator of the jokester's true feelings about the other person, that undermines a person's worth and their chances of being seen, heard and respected as the important humans they are. Jokes are funny and people need to have a sense of humor, but people also should have a sense of their own beliefs and courage and the future of mankind. Jokes aren’t meant to be cruel or unkind or to make people feel bad.
So, we thought in assembly today about how there is a fine line between laughing with others and laughing at others. Children can ‘tease’ close friends and it all be taken in good humour due to their close relationship, but teasing can quickly turn unkind. We need to consider what is the intent of our teasing. Is it to hurt? Annoy lightly and evoke laughter? Does the subject know your intent? Can the subject take the teasing? Teasing can be particularly hard to understand for children who struggle with conversation or reading social cues. Humour appears to give a gloss of moral invisibility to statements “made in jest” — but perhaps we should be more hesitant and reflective about what we’re participating in and doing. Children need boundaries when it comes to humor, just like they do in other areas.
Having a good sense of humor is a tool that children can rely on throughout life to help them:
see things from many perspectives other than the most obvious;
grasp unconventional ideas or ways of thinking;
see beyond the surface of things;
enjoy and participate in the playful aspects of life;
not take themselves too seriously.
Children with a well-developed sense of humor are happier and more optimistic, have higher self-esteem, and can handle differences (their own and others') well. Children who can appreciate and share humour are better liked by their peers and more able to handle the adversities of childhood. And a good sense of humour doesn't just help children emotionally or socially, as I talked about in last week's blog, research has shown that people who laugh more are healthier — they're less likely to be depressed and may even have an increased resistance to illness or physical problems. They experience less stress; have lower heart rates, pulses, and blood pressure; and have better digestion. But most of all, a sense of humour is what makes life fun.
I hope you get to share lots of fun and laughter this Easter.
Monday Message - 29th March 2021
A Frog and a Duck, green and white, love knows no boundaries.
So ends last Friday's Fable, Frog in Love. As with every book I choose to read to our children, there is a Reason for It. Thankfully, these days fewer people grow up hearing racial comments and name calling go unchallenged. Although racist language in the playground and street wasn't uncommon when I was young, I never experienced it directly. I am white. It was and still is very rare for white British people to experience racist language. But my friends did: young people of European, Asian and African heritage could all tell me of the countless times they were abused in the street or were on the end of 'banter' from their friends. Some of this I witnessed when out with them.
As I told the children on Google classroom today - When I grew up in Liverpool, not a million years ago, grown-ups would talk about how Protestants (one type of Christian) shouldn't marry Catholics (another type of Christian). How silly people were! Thank goodness we are wiser and kinder in 2021.
Equality does not mean we are all treated the same. Children aspiring to a place at university would not be well served if held to the same academic standards as someone with severe learning difficulties. And visa versa. It does mean that no one should expect to be spoken to or treated less well because of their colour, religion, age, sex, ability.
I have encountered three types of racial incident in my experience as teacher and school leader.
The first is thankfully very rare; when children dislike people because they are a different colour to them. This may be linked to religion but not always. These children need care guidance and support to learn better ways and to know that if dislike turns into action, it will not be tolerated. Their victims need care, guidance and support in knowing that racism always tells us much more about the perpetrator than it does about them.
The second is when people just do what they would never do to a person of their own heritage. For example touching without consent, asking about personal things. It may seem like harmless curiosity and there may be no intent to harm but it does harm. It does hurt and at the very least is tedious for the recipient. That is not to say we shouldn't compliment and admire, but we should do as we would to anyone else. Again, both need care, guidance and support.
The third has been the most common in my own limited experience. This is when two children are in dispute about something completely unrelated and then, in anger, one of them, to insult or get back, uses what is in front of their face - the colour of the other person. In this event all parties need... you guessed it - care, guidance and support!
We are a primary school and our pupils are children. If an adult is racist and abusive to others, I reserve the right to think they're a right nasty pasty, challenge their views and avoid them if they can't accept what they have done is wrong. Children's characters though are not yet formed,, they are a work in progress. I believe all our children, whatever they do as youngsters, have the right to grow up useful, kind and ready to learn and should not be not held to adult standards.
Talking about racism can be challenging. Remarks about race carry more weight because the slur goes beyond them to include their family and heritage. Like bullying, racial incidents are emotive. While we know in our heads that all children have the potential to behave in an oppressive, bullying, manner, in our hearts we find this difficult to face when it's our own child. While we know all children can make personal remarks and say bad things in anger, it can be hard when it's our child. Fortunately at Kingsmead there are no bad children. No good girls or bad boys - just over 300 nippers, all with doses of the good, bad and (mostly) interesting.
With conversation, modelling and honesty the second and third types of racial incident could be eliminated quite easily and we could put all our efforts into the very few who have learned a deeper racial prejudice. Culture, like children, is a work in progress.
My post ended with...
I hope you might one day talk to your own children about this when you are parents or carers yourselves. Hopefully they will look at you and say:
"How silly people were! Thank goodness we are wiser and kinder in 2041!"
Onward and upward! Happy Monday, Ms S :-)
Thursday Thought - 25th March 2021
LAUGHTER CONNECTS YOU WITH PEOPLE. IT'S ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO MAINTAIN ANY KIND OF DISTANCE OR ANY SENSE OF SOCIAL HIERARCHY WHEN YOU'RE JUST HOWLING WITH LAUGHTER. LAUGHTER IS A FORCE FOR DEMOCRACY
Monday Message - 22nd March 2021
REMEMBERING AND REFLECTIng: TO RESTORe, TO renew and TO hope
Today, we asked children to reflect on the year since we went into lockdown and when Covid touched us all directly. Some chose to write about someone they remember, or reflected on the past year or articulated their hope for the future.
Too many families have been bereaved this year, with Covid on top of the raft of other illnesses and events that take loved ones from us, too soon, however old they may be. I know quite a number of children have lost grandparents this last year. Children may also feel bereft when they haven't had seen loved relatives or friends; for them this too is a bereavement although a more hopeful sort.
In the UK we are not always as useful to our children as we might be when dealing with death. No one wants to be sad, nor do we want our children to be sad, or scared. Families make hard decisions as to whether children are old enough for funerals and we use stories and books in school to navigate this difficult subject. Today I read one book, by Carol Ann Duffy, The Gift. It's one of the books we lend out when families are struggling with bereavement and want to find a way of navigating it with young children. For children touched by loss it may offer comfort and to others, it is a lovely description of one human life.
Back in 2009 the whole school community had to navigate the very sad and far too soon death of one of our pupils. Jacob had a very rare form of cancer and sadly died far too young. The same year a new breed of apple was developed and his mum and dad came and planted an apple tree in Jacob's memory. It's the one in the RHS garden and tomorrow it will carry our remembering, our reflections and our hopes. Staff who were with us back then remember Jacob whenever the apples appear, his smile, his bright eyes and the contribution he made to school in the short time he was with us.
This pandemic has thrown up that there are difficult things in life to navigate and as virus' and lockdowns are no respecters of age, our children in 2021 have needed to understand things that older people have not had to think about so much at a young age. There is an expression 'we are where we are'. Thinking from where we are can be more helpful than seeking a perfect world or outcomes not appropriate for the times we find ourselves living in. Part of our job in school, caring for other people, is to think what our children need to think about and understand according to their age and stage.
Children live in two worlds and no adult has understood this as well as writer and illustrator Maurice Sendak:
"Children do live in fantasy and reality; they move back and forth very easily, in a way we no longer remember how to do. And it is through fantasy that children achieve catharsis. It is the best means they have for taming Wild Things."
Catharsis is a word linked to renewal and restoration. When dealing with any challenging circumstance (an event, something you are learning about or difficulty you have), small acts, things we can do for ourselves can help us restore balance and equilibrium in the face of difficulty and discomfort. This is one reason we believe a restorative approach to pupil misbehaviour is more useful, kind and more effective than jumping to punishment and sanction.
So today we have done small acts. Children gave voice to those they wanted to remember today. They offered their reflections on the experience of living a year now with the pandemic impacting directly on all our lives and also their hopes for the future. It was so moving to read their words. Along with hoping for ending mask wearing and playing with more people (hear hear!) we had other insights. From those who want to get along better with family members to the many memories of our children. Memories of loved grandparents, some dead, some who have moved away and others the children never met but had appreciating hearing about. Written on biodegradable paper and fixed to Jacob's tree we hope the birds may fly off with some of our wishes, memories of those we love and reflections on life and weave them into their nests for the next generation.
Ms S :-)
Thursday Thought - 18th March 2021
we all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their colour
Monday Message - 15th March 2021
Three little words and the paradox of tolerance
Wikipedia tells us:
'Toleration is the allowing, permitting, or acceptance of an action, idea, object, or person which one dislikes or disagrees with.'
Of acceptance it says:
'Acceptance in human psychology is a person's assent to the reality of a situation, recognizing a process or condition ... without attempting to change it or protest it. The concept is close in meaning to acquiescence, derived from the Latin acquiēscere (to find rest in).'
Assembly today shared the story of Issac and his amazing Asperger Superpower, a story of someone who thinks and understands the world differently - a-typically. It is difficult to respect what we don't understand and assembly encouraged children to think of people like Issac alongside their own and other children in their class' abilities and things they are less able at. Encountering anyone who in some respects is different to us, it is useful and kind to remember the Golden Rule - treat others as you want to be treated. Looking at history and cultures today, it seems the golden rule is basic human morality, transcending time and place, relevant for everyone. Thinking of the Golden Rule, do children want to be noticed only for their difficulties, what they are not good at? Or might they like people to notice their abilities, their good qualities? Do we want to be thought of and spoken of for the worst of ourselves or our best self?
I wonder what would happen if, when children come to us adults complaining about someone else, we adults asked about that someone else's strengths? If they couldn't think of any, I wonder what they'd notice if we asked them to look for out for one and report back? Too often as adults we jump to action, take control. Thinking we're helping the child who has a problem with another, might we be unintentionally feeding intolerance and unkindness? If adults put the locus of control back with the child, encouraging them gently to just look at the situation through another lens, we might find that there were far fewer conflicts and far happier children across the piece. After all, we only really need not to tolerate or accept the most serious things and things that people can be reasonably expected to have control over. Tolerance does not mean we should accept discrimination, bullying, violence, disruption to learning and intentional unkindness. To be a tolerant and accepting community, we should not to accept or tolerate intolerance. In this respect, as in many others, school is no different from British law. Racist people and organisations are not permitted to use 'free speech' as a justification for spreading hatred towards others. (Philosopher Karl Popper wrote about the paradox of tolerance for those interested).
The UK is a far kinder and more tolerant country than when I was in primary school. Last century when I was growing up, people didn't understand disability as well as we do now. There was particularly little understanding of those disabilities that are not visible in people's appearance: autism, ADHD, attachment difficulty and dyslexia for example. Returning from a longer time at home, children are getting used to a wider range of diversity than they experienced learning at home. This is why Mrs R-B and I are using the term No Outsiders in our assemblies up to Easter. Thankfully, our understanding of people with disabilities has moved on a lot since I was a nipper. We have the Equality Act to protect them and other people with protected characteristics. But disabled people and those who work with disability will tell us that there is still a way to go before we can say there is genuine equality. And for children in schools with disabilities, visible or hidden, they can still face intolerance and not be accepted quite as usefully and kindly as they should.
Which brings us to word number 3. There is another term doing the rounds at the moment, a word from the last few years but actually one first used in 1940s America. 'Woke'. 'Woke' means to be awake, to notice to social and racial injustice. Nowadays it is as often as not used as an insult, too often by the intolerant towards others. It's a bit like the term, 'political correctness', also used more to insult people who are mindful of their language to and about others. Reactions to these terms range from good humoured, friendly joshing to real aggression. But what do 'woke' or 'politically correct' actually mean? Being a bit more thoughtful about how we speak to and about others? Tolerating and accepting people who may be different to us? Just being a bit more mindful, a bit kinder? Well, for that, a bit of joshing and some people thinking we are silly is a small price to pay.
I'll leave you with A Native American tale told many times around the Sacred Fire, the Two Wolves Within. You may know it.
An old Grandfather, whose grandson came to him with filled with anger at a schoolmate who had done him an injustice, said to his grandson, “Let me tell you a story. I too, at times, have felt a great hate for those that have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do. But hate wears you down and does not hurt your enemy. Hatred is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. I have struggled with these feelings many times.”
He continued, “It is as if there are two wolves inside me; one is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him and he does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.” “But the other wolf, ah! He is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights with everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit.”
The boy looked intently into his Grandfather’s eyes and asked, “Which one wins, Grandfather?”
The Grandfather solemnly said, “The one I feed.”
Happy Monday, Ms S :-)
Thursday Thought - 11th March 2021
IT IS NOT OUR DIFFERENCES THAT DIVIDE US. IT IS OUR INABILITY TO RECOGNISE, ACCEPT AND CELEBRATE THOSE DIFFERENCES.
Audre Lordes - American writer and civil rights activist
There was a whole host of emotions on Monday morning when the children returned to school, for staff, children and parents. Many were excited and really looking forward to reconnecting with their friends and colleagues, but many also felt worried or anxious. Walking through the doors after an extended period of time is challenging. Our children will need to reconnect or start new friendships as well as adjust to school life again. One thing that our children may have lost due to restrictions disrupting school timetables, is a sense of belonging to the school community and connection with others.
Children have spent the last 11 weeks with ‘people like them’, household members that look like them, share the same interests, enjoy the same foods and sound like them. But something we celebrate as a school community is our diversity. Promoting equality and diversity in education is essential to create a classroom environment where all children can thrive together and understand that individual characteristics make people unique and not ‘different’ in a negative way. That they can have acceptance and learn that it is ok to be different. Acceptance is the ability to see that others have a right to be their own unique persons. That means having a right to their own feelings, thoughts and opinions. When you accept people for who they are, you let go of your desire to change them. You let them feel the way they want to feel, you let them be different and think differently from you and still be their friend. Everyone is different in one way or another. Once you understand this, you can stop trying to change them into the people you want them to be and start accepting them for who they are.
In assembly today we shared that we have differences in our appearance, ability, background, gifts and talents and that these are what make our school such a wonderful place to come every day. How boring school would be if we had over 300 children in school all exactly the same as each other and also teaching staff that were all exactly the same too! If everyone looked the same, had the same personality, the same interests and the same experiences, we would lose interest in other people pretty quickly. Luckily, each of us has a unique set of qualities and characteristics that make us different. Even though we know that these differences are for the best, sometimes we feel uncomfortable with these differences. We either try to change people who are different or we avoid, or ignore them. In school we talk to the children about there being ‘No Outsiders’ here. We include everyone, no matter what their difference is. It’s easy to look at others and point out their flaws. Sometimes we judge and criticise people without even realising it. The more challenging and empathetic response would be to point out the good in each person. When we accept others as they are, it means that we understand that they are doing the best that they can do at the time.
Through our theme this term of ‘Caring for Others’ the children will be thinking about how they can regain their connections with their classmates after such a long time apart. How they can have tolerance for each other’s differences and rebuild their class community. To achieve this we need to go back to the ‘Golden Rule’ I shared with the children in assembly last week. We need to treat everyone we encounter with the same level of respect that we would expect for ourselves. Rather than fearing our differences, we must embrace them, avoiding making judgements based on the first impression. If we all take more time to get to know someone, we will often discover more similarities between us than may appear to exist on the surface. If we could all be more tolerant towards those who are different to ourselves, our world would be a much more understanding and peaceful place, and on an individual level, we would all be richer for embracing diverse cultural experiences and getting to know those whose scope of experience is completely different to our own.
Monday Message - 8th March 2021
welcome back to the Bounce back generation
I was reading an article by Peter Hyman, founder of School 21 in London, in The Observer yesterday. He wrote about reimagining school for our children and how the talk of a 'lost generation', children as casualties of Covid is damaging and risks being a self-fulfilling prophesy. So it was so lovely to see full of life and in action today those youngsters Peter Hyman yesterday described as the 'bounce back generation'.
As Hyman says, our children are not lost. "Frustrated, yes. Bored, yes. Many still living in poverty, yes. In some cases, traumatised and in need of skilled support. But not lost. They’ve missed some learning but this has not rendered them incapable, permanently behind, or unable to lead a productive life."
Children are resilient and become more resilient if treated with respect, listened to and given the chance to use their imagination, make connections and find their feet. If we tell a better story and back it up with the right approach – strategic, financial (more for those most in need) and practical – then our children will be the “bounce back generation”.
Children may well be adrift of where Department of Education tests (which have all been suspended for this academic year) suggest they should be. But it is important to remember that different content goes on and off an exam syllabus routinely; the last big change was 2016 when all tests became much harder and there was a move away from ongoing assessment to final exams for GCSE and A level. It is arguable this has put things in a far worse position than they needed to be during the pandemic with what had become all important end of two year exams, disrupted. We should always remember that an exam syllabus and the test at the end of it, is not the same thing as intellect. Or their creativity and ability to cooperate and work in and leading a team, skills looked for by employers for that matter. And then, even more important than their intellect, there is our children's character, their ability to function usefully and kindly within their family, school and community. This is why in my daughter's report I always turned first to the back to read the teacher's comment. Was she polite? Was she kind? As her parent this was what I wanted to know first and foremost. And I don't think I am alone here.
Which is why today's assembly revisited the book 'Kind' by Axel Scheffler, where 38 illustrators kindly gave their work for a book to raise money for Three Peas, a charity helping those who rather than being confined to their homes have had to flee and rely on the kindness of strangers in other countries. This lockdown has been tough for us all, being confined to our homes has taken its toll on many of us. But we have homes to be confined in, today our children were back in school and we all have much more to be thankful for than many in the world.
Happy, happy Monday (your children back even took the sting out of the Fulham result).
Ms S :-)
Thursday Thought - 4th March 2021
you're never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child
Today is ‘World Book Day’ and although this year how we celebrate this important day may be different the aim is still the same; we want children to enjoy reading and develop a lifelong love of reading for pleasure. Parents are the most important educators in a child’s life – even more important than their teachers so it’s never too early to start reading together and really help your child develop their love of books.
But reading shouldn’t just be about the children reading their books to you, but you also reading to them. Cuddling up together on the sofa and sharing a good book is a special time to enjoy with your child and this certainly shouldn’t stop just because they can now read for themselves. Learning to read is about listening and understanding as well as working out what’s printed on the page. Through hearing stories, children are exposed to a wide range of words, helping them build their own vocabulary and improve their understanding when they listen, which is vital as they start to read. It’s important for them to understand how stories work too. Even if your child doesn’t understand every word, they’ll hear new sounds, words and phrases which they can then try out, copying what they have heard. Children learn their language from the people around them. They will learn the words they are exposed to. Moving from the home into the literary worlds of magic, mythical creatures, outer-space and the deep sea also moves children into worlds filled with new words. Educator and Author, Jim Trelease says 30 in 1000 words in children’s books are rare, whereas only 9 in 1000 words an adult says to a three year old is rare. Through reading books, such as Commotion in the Ocean, children will hear: iceberg; blubber, bulbous; and of course commotion. In Roald Dahl’s classic Revolting Rhymes they will discover: elizabethan; delinquent; brazen; and noble.
Reading books aloud to children stimulates their imagination and expands their understanding of the world. It helps them develop language and listening skills and prepares them to understand the written word. Research has typically found that shared reading experiences are highly beneficial for young people. Benefits of shared reading include facilitating enriched language exposure, fostering the development of listening skills, spelling, reading comprehension and vocabulary, and establishing essential foundational literacy skills. They are also valued as a shared social opportunity between parents and their children to foster positive attitudes toward reading.
We should continue reading with our children until they no longer wish to share reading with us, ensuring that these experiences are enjoyable, as they can influence children’s future attitudes toward reading, as well as building their confidence and competence as readers. It is worth the effort to find time to share this experience with our children in the early years and well beyond. The older your child grows, the harder it is to find distraction-free quality time, so reading each night is a wonderful way to strengthen your bond and give you something to be excited about together.
Reading to your child not only builds their vocabulary but improves their comprehension. When they are engaged and invested in a book, they understand it more thoroughly. It also improves their listening skills, certainly something that is going to be useful as they return to school. Reading aloud nurtures appreciation of rich language and helps train your child’s ears for understanding instructions. Plus it can help with discussing difficult issues. Children frequently tune out if you lecture them about what to do and what not to do. But if you read a story that shows characters grappling with serious conflicts and the consequences of their actions, or facing bullying, racism, religious or ethnic bias, or gender discrimination, it's a way into talking about complex, topical matters. When your child reaches a new stage in their growth, or experiences a new and unfamiliar situation, reading to your child about a story relevant to this new experience can relieve anxiety and help them cope. Storytelling is a great way for children to learn how to deal with difficult situations and solve problems. When children hear stories about characters that are able to overcome obstacles, they learn how to face similar challenges in their own lives.
And of course, being read aloud to is also how children learn to read for themselves. It teaches them phonemic awareness, visual and auditory processes, comprehension, and fluency. I’m sure you all have your own fond memories of listening to favourite bedtime tales. Hearing stories is ingrained in our DNA as something that’s always been important to humankind, but the positive implications of reading out loud go well beyond the simple pleasures of storytime. So curl up tonight and enjoy a good book together.
Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be presented to them as a precious gift. Kate Dicamillo
Monday Message - 1st March 2021
The (hopefully) final countdown
Welcome to Spring everyone! The back end of winter has been tough for us all: those of us working to provide essential services during the pandemic, those isolating at home; home educators; home workers and of course children. We want this to be the very last time we have to close the school to most families and if we all play our parts, if we are useful, kind and aware of our responsibilities as well as our rights, I am hopeful that this will be the case. With this in mind our huge thanks to the three families who decided they could manage at home learning today, this has helped us keep numbers safe enough in school.
It is tempting to think, a bit like when speed limits change on roads, that with everyone back next Monday, numbers in school don't matter so much this week. Professor Van Tam (deputy chief medical office has cautioned us all:
'Don't wreck this now, we're so close.'
The coming weeks: this one, the four in school before Easter and the Easter holiday will be critical. If we relax, because children are back in school, the chances are more likely that we will have a third wave, a fourth lockdown and further school closures. This is why, in the risk assessment we have undertaken, the ONLY thing that is substantively different will be the number of children in class. Lunch will still be eaten in classrooms, children won't be mixing outside of their class and the staffroom will be limited. Enhanced cleaning, the one-way system and requirement for ALL adults on site to wear a mask will still be in place. Due to increased numbers on site, we have special arrangements for those who cannot or do not wish to wear a mask and this is outlined in the March document which I would ask every parent, carer or grandparent bringing children to school to have read before next Monday.
As part of getting ready for next Monday, Mrs Rutter-Brown and I have a led a couple of assemblies. Our school ethos is unchanged by the virus but the culture in which we work won't rebuild itself and to really be useful and kind and ready to learn we all, every adult and every child, has an important part to play. By knowing and understanding how things need to be, for all our benefit, we can better build together a culture of kindness and respect that will benefit us all.
Ms S :-)
Thursday Thought - 25th February 2021
nothing in the golden rule says that others will treat us as we have treated them. it only says that we must treat others in a way that we would want to be treated.
‘Treat other people as you'd want to be treated in their situation.’
‘Do not treat others in a way you would not like to be treated yourself.’
In assembly today I shared with the children that many humanists use the Golden Rule to help them decide what to do or how to behave. Humanists believe that the Golden Rule evolved naturally from the fact that our species has long lived together in communities and it is essential for social groups to work together. The Golden Rule is the principle of treating others as you want to be treated, promoting useful and kind behaviour towards others. It is a statement expressing a principle or rule that is found in most religions and cultures. But regardless of the origin, all versions have one aspect of "The Rule" in common:
…they all command that people treat others in a manner in which they themselves would like to be treated.
The Golden Rule doesn't tell us what is right from wrong; but helps to keep our judgments and actions in harmony with a caring and positive value system. It encourages us to: develop a sense of empathy and compassion for others while developing true authentic kindness; improve our listening and communication skills while practicing the virtues of patience, respect and consideration for others; learn not to judge others or be critical of their differences; build life-long skills to negotiate win-win situations creating harmony in peer dispute resolution; and to enhance our personal confidence, building positive self esteem.
Many different cultures apply The Golden Rule philosophy as a way to help you put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Being able to better understand and empathise with others often helps lead to having a greater respect for them. Over the last year, all of our lives have been turned upside down, one way or another, and we have had to follow a whole new set of rules for how we live. But now, more than ever, when we can see some light at the end of the tunnel, is the time for us to still play our part in following the restrictions. We will need to have empathy and respect for each other and work together as a community for the great good.
Our behaviour is heavily influenced by what other people do, looking to others to inform our own behaviour. At the outset of the crisis, desired social behaviours were made clear and were, for the most part, adopted. But as time has gone on and many people have returned to work, many will want to return to normal, to their previous patterns of behaviour. We are creatures of habit, after all. However, we cannot return to what had been. We must transition to a new normal, in which new behaviours should be expected. One thing that will stay the same is that the collective will establish the norm. We will continue to look to what others do to inform our own behaviour. In school, we want the children to develop into caring and responsible citizens and we all have a responsibility to enable them to do this. They will see whether their own parents and teachers follow the rules and this in turn will influence their own behaviour choices. We wouldn’t want other people to put our health at risk so we need to ensure that we are following the rules so we aren’t putting the health of others at risk. The Golden Rule is so simple and if we treat others as we would want to be treated in their place this will ultimately lead to our own happiness.
Thursday Thought - 11th February 2021
agape love is ... profound concern for the well-being of another, without the desire to control that other, to be thanked by that other, or to enjoy the process.
Madeleine L’Engle - American Writer
The last 12 months have been very different from what we all expected. Little did we really know what was to come last Valentine’s Day. However, this Valentine’s Day is a good time to stop and think about the people we care for, and what we can do to show our love and care for them. We all need to feel love and be loved at the moment. Feelings of love and affection carry with them numerous health benefits by lowering your blood pressure, stabilising your mood, and the mental, emotional, and social advantages of receiving love and affection speak for themselves.
The Ancient Greeks had eight words that corresponded to different types of love: Eros (romantic love); Philia (affectionate love); Agape (selfless love); Storge (familiar love); Mania (obsessive love); Ludus (playful love); Pragma (enduring love); and Philautia (self love).
Valentine’s day can involve many of these different types of love, but I have been encouraging the children to think about agape love this Valentines. This is possibly the most important of all love. Agape is selfless, undeserving and generous. It’s the kind of love that makes people volunteer for the jobs that nobody else wants to do. It’s the kind of love that is concerned for the needs of the vulnerable, the lonely, the weak and people that nobody wants to care for. I’ve asked the children to think about all the ways their parents show them love: by preparing meals for them; washing their dirty clothes; limiting their time on devices; supporting them with their home schooling; and even telling them off when they have made the wrong choice. These are just a few of the things you do as parents. They aren’t necessarily how you would like to be spending your time and you don’t do them to receive thanks, although the occasional thank you wouldn’t go amiss! But you do them because you care. Sometimes children don’t recognise or appreciate all the different ways that you show them love. Love isn’t just about hearts, flowers, chocolate and saying ‘I love you’, it’s much more than that.
Agape can be said to encompass the modern concept of altruism, as defined as unselfish concern for the welfare of others. Recent studies link altruism with a number of benefits. In the short-term, an altruistic act leaves us with a euphoric feeling, the so-called "helper’s high". In the longer term, altruism has been associated with better mental and physical health, and even greater longevity. At a social level, altruism serves as a signal of cooperative intentions. Altruism, or agape, helps to build and maintain the psychological, social, and, indeed, environmental fabric that shields, sustains, and enriches us. Given the increasing anger and division in our society, and the state of our planet, we could all do with quite a bit more agape. People who experience or act with agape love show they care for people regardless of circumstance. If the Covid-19 pandemic has brought out one positive thing in us, it’s our altruistic side. As the virus spread, and with it nationwide quarantines, this has manifested in many moments of solidarity, from the texts from friends you haven’t spoken to in a while asking how you are, calls to elderly relatives to check up on their wellbeing, the sharing of hand sanitiser, the offer to walk someone’s dog for them, to the “good news” WhatsApp groups people are creating.
Love isn’t just the name of a feeling. In assembly today we thought about how love is also a ‘verb’. It is the way people behave towards each other every day. Love is all the things we do to show how much we care about one another, even if sometimes it means doing things you’d rather not do, but love makes them worthwhile. I hope this weekend the children show you all how much they love and care for you with their actions as well as their words.
Monday Message - 8th February 2021
the gift is to the giver, and comes back most to him – it cannot fail.
In assembly today, children were asked to think about Art as a gift. Artists, be they musicians, visual artists, actors, writers or poets are described as 'gifted' - their talents bring them fame and recognition, they are celebrated and lauded and have a special place in society. Art today can seem like any other commodity, something to be bought and sold in galleries, via downloads, in theatres and concert halls. The more famous and 'gifted' the artist, the higher the price it can command. But most of our human species' time on earth has not been 'history' but prehistory, a very long time, millenia before writing or money had even been thought of. For most of our time on Earth, art has not been been something made made by the elite or gifted members of a community, rather, their art has been a gift to their community (or their gods). Many of the greatest artists are unnamed. From painters in caves to stone masons working on the great cathedrals, some carving so high it can't be seen from the floor - their gift to God, it is only by their work that we know them at all.
The Gift by Lewis Hyde, a book described by The Guardian as 'the gift that keeps on giving' and more than ever, relevant to the times we find ourselves living through inspired assembly today, and the Art Club for this term, where children are asked to think about making a gallery in a window in their home as a gift to their street, their neighbours and friends. The online Cave Gallery is also a gift; a gift where children and young people can share their work, learn from each other and have a sense of connection to something bigger than any individual or household. So important now when we are in our small bubbles, be these at home or in school.
Last week was Children's Mental Health Awareness Week. We engaged with this and appreciate how important this is but I did not approach it without some ambivalence. I am not sure it does much for children's (or anyone else's mental health) to be repeatedly told it's in a bad state. For some, being sad and lonely right now is not a mental health issue so much as perfectly natural response to a sad and lonely time. I for one am much more concerned about children's screentime and the impact this has on their feelings of isolation and anxiety when we're not in lockdown than when we are all working and learning in relative isolation.
When children (and anyone else) make work and create something, we focus both outside and inside of ourselves. This can be cathartic, an expression of our feelings; it can be diverting, a means of thinking of something else outside our predicament; it can be mindful, an opportunity to just be, in the moment with your mind free of all but what it is about at that time. Whether cathartic, diverting or mindful it is likely to benefit the giver as much as those receiving and enjoying their work - in the street or online at https://sites.google.com/kingsmead.cheshire.sch.uk/cavegallery/home.
Ms S :-)
Thursday Thought - 4th February 2021
acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the FOUNDATION of all abundance
Eckhart Tolle - Author
During Children’s Mental Health Week I have spoken to the children about being thankful, something that feels like a real challenge for us all at the moment. Gratitude is an emotion that occurs in response to receiving something of value or an act of generosity from another. It's easy to feel grateful when life is good but when disaster strikes, gratitude is much more of an effort. When life is going well, gratitude allows us to celebrate and magnify goodness. But what about when life goes badly? Studies suggest that expressing and experiencing gratitude can contribute to our wellbeing so it is precisely under crisis conditions when we have the most to gain by a grateful perspective on life. .
For some people this pandemic has put situations into perspective and their levels of gratitude have gone up, which has allowed them to focus on what they appreciate and what brings them joy. Many people have come to feel grateful for having their health, having their family, or having a job. However others may feel that they have less to be grateful for during this time because of the experiences that it has brought to them and the possible impacts the pandemic has had on their lives. Those who have lost their jobs, suffered with disease, or lost someone close to them are likely struggling to find anything to feel grateful for in the situation. It takes tremendous strength to remain grateful in times of suffering or loss, however it has been shown that maintaining a feeling of gratitude for that which one still has makes dealing with adverse situations easier.
But gratitude doesn’t mean you float through life in a state of bliss, sometimes, gratitude is a bit more like exercise: It’s good for you and will pay off in the long run, but it might require some begrudging effort today. It’s when you don’t want to get out of bed that you could use the workout most, and you might need to give yourself an extra push. When it comes to gratitude, that means pointing your thoughts toward the good things, even when they seem meaningless and outweighed by all the bad. When you’re locked down or quarantined or physically distanced, it’s the small things that might matter most: a meal, a hug, a neighbour collecting some shopping for you. Reflecting on them gives your brain a break and a different focus—and that’s what makes the difference to your happiness.
Finding things to be thankful for does not mean viewing the world through rose-tinted glasses. We can fully recognise the gravity of the current situation and the human suffering it has caused while at the same time finding reasons to be grateful. Gratitude has the power to remind us of the big picture to take us out of the claustrophobia of the current crisis. Times of crisis tend to narrow our attention to immediate threats—a natural part of our hard-wired stress response. Gratitude can relieve us of this tunnel vision. We can be thankful for the blessings and comforts of this moment, whilst also being grateful for past memories and experiences. And we can look forward to a post-pandemic future and savor the freedoms and connections we will once more be able to enjoy.
Monday Message - 1st February 2021
All at sea
Living through the third national lockdown can no longer be called unprecedented. Last March, there was a real sense of us all being in it together, determined to help each other through it and appreciate the public services like NHS staff and delivery drivers. A year on, fatigue is setting in, with infection and death rates as high as they are, it can be hard to see an end in sight. Vaccines give some light at the end of the tunnel, but there is still a lot of tunnel.
This week is Children's Mental Health Awareness Week and today in school is Mighty Monday. Being mentally strong begins with liking yourself; people with good self-esteem are more resilient when times are tough. Caring for yourself, liking yourself, goes hand in hand with how we care for and consider other people. It's a virtuous circle: you say something complimentary to someone else, seeing their face light up makes you feel positive about yourself, that you're a good person. Other people will also be more likely to say kind and complimentary things to us. Of course the opposite also applies.
Lockdown 2021 is a bit like sailing on a stormy sea. We are all in the same sea but we all our boats are different. When waves are threatening and the sky is dark it can be hard even to see the other boats, let alone anyone cowering inside. Too many people have found work dry up completely or have too little work to sustain them; it must be so hard for them to empathise with those exhausted people working on the front line in food shops and the public sector. Juggling children learning at home with work is a tremendous pressure and it will be difficult to empathise with folk missing their grown up children who live far away. People living alone might have difficulty sympathising with the disagreements and irritations of people cooped up together. But just because something is hard doesn't mean we shouldn't try. If we try to remember and empathise with others, it will have benefits for our own mental health as well as making us nicer to be around. Keeping our situation in perspective and not catastrophising are important for anyone living through the privations and restrictions of the days, weeks and very possibly months ahead.
We have asked that the parents and carers who are critical workers, only use provision in school when they really need it. We balance our duty to have places for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers working out in the community with trying to keep numbers in school as low as possible and reduce mixing. The guidance from government says that if parents and carers (including critical workers) can keep children at home, they should. To keep school as safe as possible, to play our part in the community response to the pandemic, we rely on partnership with families which means people being as mindful of their duty and responsibilities as well as their entitlement or rights.
Mrs Rutter-Brown and I are working our way through making a phone call to all the families we are not in regular contact with, to see how they are and let them know we are in no doubt how difficult it is to be juggling work and children learning at home (school staff supporting learning at home for their own and other people's children tell us just how hard it is!). We know the task is no less difficult for people who are not designated as critical workers or indeed for those who are, but are able to work from home and keep their children with them. We thank each and every one of them.
Happy Monday, take care and stay strong!
Ms S :-)
Thursday Thought - 28th January 2021
there may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest
Elie Wiesel - Romanian-born American writer, professor, political activist, Nobel laureate, and Holocaust survivor.
The Jewish author, philosopher and humanist Elie Wiesel made it his life's work to bear witness to the genocide committed by the Nazis during World War II. He was the world's leading spokesman on the Holocaust.
After Hitler's forces had moved into Hungary in 1944, the Wiesel family was deported to the Auschwitz extermination camp in Poland. Elie Wiesel's mother and younger sister perished in the gas chamber there. In 1945 Elie and his father were sent on to Buchenwald, where his father died of starvation and dysentery. Seventeen-year-old Elie was still alive when American soldiers opened the camp.
For the world to remember and learn from the Holocaust was not Elie Wiesel's only goal. He thought it equally important to fight indifference and the attitude that "it's no concern of mine". Elie Wiesel saw the struggle against indifference as a struggle for peace. In his words, "The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference".
In assembly today I shared with the children some information and thoughts about Holocaust, as yesterday, the 27th January, was Holocaust Memorial day. The theme for Holocaust Memorial Day this year was ‘Be the light in the darkness’. The theme encourages everyone to reflect on the depths humanity can sink to, but also the ways individuals and communities resisted that darkness to ‘be the light’ before, during and after genocide. This theme asks us to consider different kinds of ‘darkness’, for example, identity-based persecution, misinformation, denial of justice; and different ways of ‘being the light’, for example, resistance, acts of solidarity, rescue and illuminating mistruths.
Rapid technological developments, a turbulent political climate, and world events beyond our control can leave us feeling helpless and insignificant. The utterly unprecedented times through which we are living currently are showing the very best of which humanity is capable but also the much darker side of our world as well.
I shared with the children how the citizens of Denmark were ‘the light’ during the Holocaust through their collective resistance to Nazi Germany’s occupation of Denmark during World War 2. The Danish resistance movement, with the assistance of many Danish citizens, managed to evacuate 7,220 of Denmark's 7,800 Jews, plus 686 non-Jewish spouses, by sea to nearby neutral Sweden. Within hours of learning that the Nazis intended to wipe out Denmark’s Jews, nearly all Danish Jews had gone into hiding. Within days, most of them had escaped Denmark to neutral Sweden. The miraculous-seeming rescue of over 90 percent of Danish Jews happened thanks to ordinary Danes. After the war, most Danes refused to take credit for their resistance work, which many had conducted under false names. Ordinary people who never considered themselves part of the Danish Resistance passed along messages, gathered food, gave hiding places or guarded the possessions of those who left until they returned home from the war. It was the most successful action of its kind during the Holocaust.
We need to learn from the past, but unfortunately discrimination still exists in our society today. But by working together and ‘being the light’, we can make a better, safer future that we are all responsible for. We need to make sure no-one is left out or made to feel different in a bad way; we need to respect each other and learn that together, we are stronger and happier. We need to know that when different things and different people come together, it can make life more interesting and meaningful. We are all individuals who share this world together and it is important that we support one another, treat one another fairly, with respect and celebrate our differences. We are all experiencing a difficult time and this is when we need the support and care of our family, friends and community the most. When communities reach out and join together, they become stronger and happier.
The world is full of injustice, from international politics, to unfair business practices, to how individuals treat each other in everyday life. However, just because there has always been injustice in the world doesn't mean there's nothing you can do about it. By taking individual actions, and partnering with other like-minded people, and staying informed, you can stand up to injustice and make the world a better place. It is important that we do something, no matter how small.
Monday Message - 25th January 2021
Scientific endeavour caring for us all
Today children are thinking about two pieces of Scientific work. The first, a discovery from almost 200 years ago, is very relevant to our current situation. The other, something where we can all be part of, is a big data gather which will be used by scientists to assess the health of the nature in Britain.
Assembly today is about the father of vaccination, Edward Jenner. As with so many medical breakthroughs today, Jenner used meticulous observation, listening to his patients alongside experiment and clinical trial. The result was vaccination and the eradication of a virus that killed millions and left others scarred for life - Smallpox. I remember seeing cases of Smallpox on the news when I was little, and the celebration when this terrible disease was eradicated. To do this, the two great superpowers of the time, the USSR and the USA, right in the middle of the cold war, agreed to work together for the good of everyone on the planet. At this time in history, the mere fact that Russia and America were agreeing to work on something together was just as big news as the World Health Organisation's work to eradicate Smallpox!
Thinking about Dr Jenner, whose pioneering work led to the Smallpox vaccination, the first vaccination in history I was struck by something he said:
“While the vaccine discovery was progressive, the joy I felt at the prospect before me of being the instrument destined to take away from the world one of its greatest calamities [smallpox], blended with the fond hope of enjoying independence and domestic peace and happiness, was often so excessive that, in pursuing my favourite subject among the meadows, I have sometimes found myself in a kind of reverie.”
I think this might be how a lot of the paramedics, doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health care professionals, working flat out on vaccination or in covid wards are feeling right now. Alongside pride in their contribution to combatting coronavirus, the hope of happier times in the future is I hope, bringing much needed comfort.
Meanwhile there is our own mental health mid-pandemic to think about. Dr Jenner spent much of his time outdoors in nature, observing and enjoying the natural world. On the news this morning was more research into the positive effect nature can have on all our wellbeing, even just hearing it while indoors (see BBC Soundscapes for Wellbeing). I know on the gate this morning, hearing a crew of lively sparrows arguing got my morning off to a better start.
The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch must be one of very few things we can do that is unaffected by coronavirus. I find January a tedious month at the best of times but never regret joining in the Birdwatch. Wrapped up with a cup of tea, identifying and counting birds for an hour for the RSPB really lifts my spirits. It also provides scientists with excellent data on the health of the bird population and the state of nature in the UK. Birds are like the canary in the coal mine: a healthy bird population indicates wider health in nature, biodiversity in the insect population and plants. Next weekend, young and old, we can all be research Scientists.
Children are born taxonomists; they love classifying and naming stuff, whether it's cartoon characters, cars, dinosaurs or ... birds. I think the act of being able to name something deepens respect and understanding for it so we care about it differently. When children can name a bird they see, their feeling of cleverness, of being 'in the know' will also make them feel more part of the natural world, something that benefits us all. I have saved all the resources you need for an hour next weekend in https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/birdwatch/
Happy Monday, Ms S :-)
Thursday Thought - 21st January 2021
going on one more round, when you don't think you can, that's what makes all the difference
In assemblies this week Ms Stewart and I have been talking to the children about endurance and perseverance and sharing examples of people, who despite difficulties, have kept going, even when it has been really hard. Perseverance isn’t easy. It means that even when things get really hard for us, we don’t give up. When we are facing things that are difficult, we face a decision: Do we give up or do we persevere?
Speaking to some parents this week, I know that some children learning at home are finding it hard to stay motivated, now the novelty has worn off. Parents are finding it incredibly difficult to balance homeschooling with their own work commitments and our ability to keep up our spirits is really being put to the test during this on-going pandemic.
However people do have inside themselves the capability to develop the kind of perseverance that will see them through the world’s current health and economic crisis — and through future crises they are certain to encounter. History is filled with stories of individuals or entire populations who struggled through the most difficult of times. Friends and family members who overcame health concerns, financial troubles or personal tragedies can be the source of such stories, too.
Perseverance means having the self-discipline to continue a task despite being confronted with difficulties or unexpected challenges. Children need to cultivate a number of skills on their educational journey, and perseverance and strength of character are critical skills to ensure children give their all to tasks and are able to deal with the range of challenges they will be faced with throughout their school life and beyond.
People who consistently challenge themselves are more likely to persevere when they fail or when they encounter difficult times because they don’t feel that failure is a permanent condition. The more times you put yourself out there in tough situations and fail, the more failure just doesn’t matter. It is true that COVID-19 has altered our normal daily routines in ways that we could have never imagined. Our everyday lives upended, our plans and some of our major life milestones cancelled or changed, our ability to leave home, to enjoy festivities, to eat at restaurants, to play outdoors with our friends, and our overall ability to socialise in person is no longer a socially acceptable practice.
It is not surprising that people are experiencing a flurry of emotions including fear, anger, loneliness, frustration, and even some rebellion, but these emotions can often leave us feeling drained and out of control of our own lives.
As parents, we can help our children to develop their perseverance skills, drawing on their own independent learning skills. This should support them to stay focused with their home-learning and provide you with the time to focus on your own work commitments.
We can teach children self-compassion, helping them to understand that we all make mistakes and we all experience failures. Then instead of dwelling on the mistake or becoming angry with yourself, allow yourself permission to not be perfect, look at these failures or mistakes as an opportunity to adjust your approach, to try again differently, and to practice kindness and self- encouragement so that you can better adapt, learn, and grow. Allowing children the time and space to work through problems independently and develop their own strategies will help them take responsibility for their own learning. Giving children the time to reflect on their mistakes and develop appropriate solutions will mean they have the confidence to work without constantly being dependent on input from their peers or adults.
Encourage children to consider their goals and what steps they are taking to help them reach these. They need to think about: Are they taking steps to help them reach those goals?; What is holding them back?; How will they approach challenges and setbacks?; Why is it important for them to achieve these goals? Having a firm grip on our WHYs in life strengthens our determination and can help us push past difficult moments. Showing children that setting learning targets will help them achieve their desired goals should aid them in developing a disciplined attitude towards their school work. A mix of daily, short-term and long-terms goals in several subject areas will also give children an extra incentive to focus on their school work.
We have talked to the children a lot about gratitude and practicing being thankful through our assemblies, but spending 5 to 10 minutes everyday reflecting on the good aspects of your life is really important. Children need to find ways to express what makes them happy, what makes them feel connected and what makes them feel loved. Children who are able to express their thoughts and opinions clearly will be better prepared to contribute to decisions about the learning they want to undertake. They will also be able to join in classroom discussions, which should help them to develop a more positive attitude to school life.
Practicing patience also allows us to experience the journey before we get to the destination. Patience can be described as the art of remaining calm without becoming angry, anxious, or worried when faced with obstacles, challenges, and setbacks. One way for us all to practice this is to focus on slowing down and deepening our breathing when you become angry, upset, sad, or anxious.
Children, and adults, are social creatures and being apart is so difficult for everyone. When we work as a team, our goals and our determination is strengthened, so for children working at home alone on their school work this is a challenge. It is hard to provide the same level of encouragement from their peers as they would get in school but we are all in this together and we need each other to get through it. Even though we cannot be physically together, it’s important to call, video chat, email, or write letters to the people we care about to engage in responsive interactions, protect our emotional well-being, and manage the stress of living through this challenging time.
Pandemic fatigue is a reality. We had all hoped that Covid-19 would have been under control by now and this continued uncertainty is hard for us to manage. It is like we are running a marathon without knowing the total distance of the race. But in the words of Billy Ocean ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going’. We don’t know how long this will last but we do know that as parents, we can control the way we respond to these challenges that can positively impact our children. Our children need our leadership to teach them how to cope when life is really hard.
Monday Message - 18th January 2021
Last week, Mrs Rutter-Brown talked to children about young people who'd cared for others through lockdown here in the UK. Assembly today celebrated two young women who made it their life's mission to care for other people and at great personal risk and requiring deep reserves of endurance in the dangerous and hostile places they chose for their work.
There are two meanings to the word endurance and I rather think living through this pandemic requires both. In assembly today I talked to the children about two African American women, one born a slave in the South, the other, nine years younger, a free woman in Delaware, Pennsylvania, with access to a private education and medical school. Both were chosen because their lives demonstrate the power of endurance. A choice they made to endure for others - in even harsher times than we are living through.
I asked the children to think of or notice something small they might endure today. Maybe something to help their parents and carers work at home or to help their classmates or teaching staff in school. I wonder if they will tell you about this round the dinner table tonight. How did they feel? Did they feel proud? Happy?
We know that when children are dealing with challenging material (and living through a pandemic provides no end of this), their wellbeing is helped by small acts they can do to make a positive difference. Small positive actions will ameliorate negative feelings of fear, hopelessness, feelings of lack of control or agency, being totally in the hands of fate. Small acts of kindness and caring for others will balance all the understandable negative emotions and provide a small spark of light at the end of the tunnel. Helping us to endure the present and come out OK at the end of it all.
This lockdown feels very different to last March. There seems to be far less optimism and, as might be predicted, after a year since we were first hearing about this virus there is more general fatigue, anxiety and less resilience. Hope and optimism can be hard to find but that does not mean we should give up, stop looking for them and noting when we find them, however small. Our children are all very young, their lives, no less than at any other time, should include opportunities for wonder, magic, curiosity and malarky. To give them that, we need (to coin a cliche) dig deep, endure and care for each other.
Ms S :-)
Thursday Thought - 14th January 2021
INSTEAD OF WORRYING ABOUT WHAT YOU CANNOT CONTROL, SHIFT YOUR ENERGY TO WHAT YOU CAN CREATE
Roy T. Bennett - Author
The first global pandemic of the 21st century has generated plenty of antisocial behaviour such as panic-buying, but it is also inspiring very many people to step up and do something helpful. We have seen selfless communities rallying together to support front-line health workers, local food banks and those who need it most. Helping others during a pandemic can be a rewarding way to give back at a time when all of us are feeling worried and anxious about our health and the future. It’s the kindness of others during hard times that reassures us and inspires us to give back in our own ways too.
In assemblies this week we have been sharing some stories with the children about inspirational people, as our focus this term is ‘caring for others’. Ms Stewart shared how Marcus Rashford began a campaign for free school meals in June where he convinced the government to provide vouchers in the summer holidays for 1.3 million children in England who were receiving free school meals in term time, following the support given during the first coronavirus lockdown in April.
Since March 2020 there have been numerous news stories sharing the good people have done to help others, but these often get overshadowed by the unavoidable sad and shocking news informing us of the rise in daily cases and deaths.
In these scary, uncertain times, we could all benefit from focusing on the good a little more. We could all do to see the best sides of human nature prevail a little more often. Even in these trying times, we can lift our spirits by focusing on the positive things happening around the world. Studies have found that doing so is good for our health, both mentally and physically. So in today’s blog I thought I might try and lift all of our spirits and share some of these prosocial stories.
Corner shop kindness - A couple in Scotland, Asiyah and Jawad Javed, created ‘coronavirus kits’, including hand gel, a mask and wipes and delivered these for free to all the elderly and infirm residents in the village of Falkirk to help prevent the spread of the virus.
Jack Maltby-Smith - Northampton Town academy under 12 player, Jack was inspired by Marcus Rashford’s campaign to provide meals for children during half term week. He decided to encourage friends and family to sponsor him for the amount of goals he scored in his fixture against Stoke City. Jack scored two goals but instead of sponsoring the striker with just £1 per goal, like he asked for, many fundraisers supported him in their droves with generous donations, helping to raise more than £5000, enough money to feed 300 families over Christmas.
Corey William - His efforts raised £4,000 to buy tablet computers for patients at hospitals such as Llantrisant's Royal Glamorgan who could not have visitors. Carrying sacks of potatoes to help out in his dad's Gelli chip shop is not unusual for Corey, who is from Ton Pentre. But it gave him an idea at the start of the first lockdown - after finding out about hospital patients who could have no contact with the outside world. It was then he decided to put the practice he had gained helping his dad to good use - and carry a sack of potatoes two miles up the steep hill to the top of Penrhys in Rhondda.
He did not stop there, though - in one week in May he also tackled two other mountains and "biked the Bwlch" and "ran the Rhigos". The money raised bought tablet computers for patients at the Royal Glamorgan, Ysbyty Cwm Rhondda and Y Bwthyn hospitals, all in Rhondda Cynon Taf.
Imogen Papworth-Heidel - This football mad schoolgirl was inspired to do something to raise funds for charities supporting key workers after seeing Captain Tom Moore walking laps of his garden for the NHS so she set out to do one keepy-uppy for each of the UK's key workers in April last year. She realised she could not reach her target alone, so footballers including Lioness Lucy Bronze responded to an appeal for help. Imogen completed a total of 1,123,586 keepy-uppies during an unbroken 195-day run, reaching more than 7,000 a day during the first lockdown and the summer holidays. About 2,000 sports clubs, school groups and individuals also "donated" 5,976,414, taking videos of themselves and sending them to her parents. Among those joining in the challenge were England and Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford and Spandau Ballet star Martin Kemp. She raised more than £11,418 for nine charities by keeping her football up in the air as many times as she could.
And let’s not forget our own good news stories. Five local heroes were recognised for their work in the community during the first lockdown period. Laura Clifton, John and Julia Griffiths, Daniel Pendlebury and Sarah Lees were all nominated for a Northwich Hero Award, as part of a search organised by Barons Quay and the Northwich BID. Read their stories here.
These are just a few of the ‘good news’ stories, highlighting the efforts people have gone to to help and care for others during this pandemic. When we give to others it activates the areas of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection and trust. Altruistic behaviour releases endorphins in the brain and boosts happiness for us as well as the people we help. Caring for others is not all about money - we can also give our time, ideas and energy, being polite and courteous in all situations and always trying to see the best in people. If we all could show care and consideration for others in our behaviour then hopefully the effect will be contagious and that if everyone behaved that way then we could make a real change to society.
11th January 2021
I feel like a lot of people would have learned a lot about themselves in 2020 ... we showed compassion and empathy. That was really lovely to see
First, thank you to all families who have rejigged and rethought their working so they can keep any request for a place in school to when this is absolutely needed. Thank you too to their employers who, like us, are making reasonable adjustments for their staff who are also managing home learning with young children. We can no longer take comfort or confidence that children don't spread the infection. A more virulent strain means more people will need hospital care and more will die from Covid. Our collective efforts mean that vulnerable pupils and children of critical workers will be safer here in school and the risk of infection coming home to you or coming in to staff in school is reduced. Collective efforts where we all play our part mean we may get out of lockdown faster, that life-saving cancer operations won't be delayed and, if we were unfortunate enough to be one of those who become critically unwell with Covid, there will be a hospital bed for us.
It was humbling last week that two families whose children really do need a place in school, called to ask that we prioritise families in greater need. I thanked them and am in total admiration of their utter selflessness but declined their useful and kind offer. Their children really do need a place.
If you have not watched the video of the meeting last Wednesday please think about it; it was shared on your child's Google Classroom. We all respect and comply more when we understand. There has been some mixed messaging from On High; revised guidance that where parents and carers are critical workers they should work at home if they can and only take a school place if they must came out Friday tea time, after the guidance that only one parent needed to be a critical worker. Last Wednesday we too did something of U turn last week from aiming to have the most we can safely have in to now asking you to support us in ensuring the fewest children possible are in school for face to face education.
We know that every family in the UK is under increased stress and pressure right now. When people are under stress, it is harder for them to care about other people and appreciate that others are in greater need. But in the words of Dr Matt Butler, just because it's harder doesn't mean we shouldn't do it. We are all affected by Covid but we are not all in it together in the same way. Additional stress and pressure when you have a decent enough income, when your children have access to devices and a space to work, parents able to help and a garden are not in it in the same way as some of the families discussed in assembly today.
Today's assembly (https://drive.google.com/file/d/1-iV_tBvXDbfptd1f8kfBIPmJfvEO29Xf/view) shares with children the achievements of Guardian Footballer of the Year, Marcus Rashford. Rashford may be a premier league player with all the wealth and trappings of fame and fortune but he has not forgotten his childhood experience, growing up in Wythenshawe seeing his mum struggle to keep food on the table. I remember too, when my friends at school were talking about summer holidays and where they were going, I would be worried about what we'd be eating. I may not wish Marcus Rashford goals at Anfield but I am 100% with him that Covid has thrown inequality into sharp relief. It is the moral and civic duty of all useful and kind citizens as well as the duty of governments to care for other people. You can read the Guardian article that has inspired assembly and today's message at https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2021/jan/04/the-guardian-footballer-of-the-year-marcus-rashford-my-mum-is-everything but meanwhile I leave you with his advice to children and wishes for our country.
“Only stay in competition with yourself,” he says. “Everyone’s journey is different. There is no right way to do it. Train hard and believe in yourself. My wish is that all children start life on an equal playing field in the UK. That no child starts life 20 yards behind any other child and that our children are equipped with tools they need to succeed at anything they put their mind to.”
Ms S :-)
8th January 2021
reasons to be hopeful
This was my Something to Read on Christmas morning. It's brilliant and I recommend it, but for this post the title says it all.
I have just come off a coronacast meeting with headteachers and NAHT colleagues to follow up from the Wednesday meeting with Dr Matt Butler which was specifically to share clinical information regarding the epidemic. Today's meeting (thank you Simon at Hartford Manor) was to share other information and provide further clarity.
On Tuesday we closed and made plans on the hoof, particularly around critical workers and vulnerable children. Nature abhors a vacuum and my union, the NAHT and other unions including the NEU, usefully and kindly offered some guidance around priorities. We thank them and their work on our behalf has been appreciated. When government guidance does appear it must take priority.
I cannot say the following strongly enough – schools did not close because they were not safe to be in. We can keep school as safe as we can, mindful of PM Johnson's caution that they can 'vectors for infection in the community' and every UK government has shut schools with the same caveats around vulnerable children and critical workers. The decision for school closure was for one reason alone: to prevent the spread of the virus to the point where demand overwhelms the NHS meaning that seriously ill people (with covid and all the other conditions, like cancer and heart disease) cannot receive life-saving treatment.
This means that the school workforce, children or families have no more reason to be anxious about being with us in school than before. I am no more fearful of the virus than I was. But I am very concerned that if the country doesn’t pull together to reduce infection there might not be any clinical workers to treat us if we do become seriously ill – with anything.
Guidance has been clarified with us at the meeting today and there are some updates on https://www.kingsmead.cheshire.sch.uk/communication-letters-home/covid-faqs-spring-2021
The support we have received from families is heart-warming and frankly has kept us going. Teaching, premises and admin staff have worked their socks off since Monday night's announcement having already attended a Sunday afternoon staff meeting (not in the rules) to prepare for full opening in tier 4. Families were so positive and appreciative of remote learning last lockdown and we have listened to their views and improved our offer for Lockdown 3. We have communicated honestly, openly and explained as well as we can with the information we have. It's a fast moving situation and thank you for keeping abreast of changes. Communication via the online meeting earlier this week and the website since last March tells you why as well as what we are doing.
This gives us every reason to be hopeful. Which brings me back to the title of the book I am reading.
The partnership we enjoy with most families means we can have every confidence that parents and carers will only request a place in school when they really need it. We can have faith that they will be mindful of government guidance around civic responsibilities as much as rights. The Guidance is clear: “parents and carers who are critical workers should keep their children at home if they can”. I repeat again the words of Dr Matt Butler 'Just because working at home is hard with children it is not a reason to send them to school.' We will do all we can to meet all requests from all families and have honest, useful and kind discussions before telling people their child cannot attend on a particular day. But the guidance now means I have neither the legal argument or, quite frankly, the energy to engage in protracted argument.
Today unions including the NAHT, NEU ASCL and NASUWT have agreed the following four principles for schools during lockdown:
Reduce bubble size to a safe enough level - these are our phase classes.
Maintain the integrity of bubbles, keep them intact - there is no mixing of phase classes during the school day. Some schools have had to cease before and after school care. We are offering Early Birds and Night Owls to working families. However, we do not have capacity to run four separate provisions which would require 8 members of staff. We are mitigating risk by encouraging phases to maintain distance and using the outdoors and hall as much as possible.
Capacity for the home learning offer - children learning at home are as important to us as those needing a place in school. We cannot staff the school to the point that there is not capacity to provide learning at home.
Staff should work from home whenever they can - some will be in school working face to face or because of other roles. Technical limitations for some roles mean staff will be in where they can't work from home. All staff who are clinically extremely vulnerable are working from home.
The view from the meeting I was in today was that, given the length of the last lockdown (March-June), it is fair to say there were too few vulnerable children in school and far too many slipped through the net (I’m talking England, not about us). This lockdown we should expect, as we have planned for, more pupils attending school but for public health reasons, this should still be the minimum number possible.
Please check the website regularly, we update via the homepage but where you can find the three links below. This will save Lisa and I repeating ourselves and ensure the whole school community is on the same page. https://www.kingsmead.cheshire.sch.uk/communication-letters-home/news-home , https://www.kingsmead.cheshire.sch.uk/communication-letters-home/covid-faqs-spring-2021 and https://www.kingsmead.cheshire.sch.uk/communication-letters-home/blog/spring-2021
With my thanks for reading yet another one.
Take care, do have a happy weekend. Huncker down and lets hope we get some snow!
Ms S :-)
7th January 2021
the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience but where he stands in times of challenge and CONTROVERSY
Martin Luther King Jr.
This first week of 2021 in school has been like no other in my career as a teacher. From a Sunday afternoon staff meeting to discuss and review our risk assessment before opening the school on Monday to all pupils, to an 8 p.m. announcement from the PM that all schools will now close. Then a day to quickly plan, in school and on-line provision, before welcoming our vulnerable and critical worker children back to school on Wednesday and begin on-line learning for those children at home. Hopefully today will be as normal as is possible in this fast changing situation. However, as I sit here writing this it has now started to snow, so who knows!
Our focus for assemblies this term is ‘caring for other people’ and on Monday I talked to the children about how, to protect them and the adults in school, their teachers and teaching assistants would now be wearing face coverings in class. Obviously when trying to listen to anyone wearing a face covering it is more difficult to hear clearly, we understand and appreciate this, but children can play their part by being attentive in their lessons and asking the adults to repeat something if they have been unable to hear. We are also expecting the children to care for each other by encouraging them to social distance, something young children find extremely hard.
In Ms Stewart’s assembly today she talked to the children about the village of Eyam, in the hills of Derbyshire, that made a far greater sacrifice than we are being asked to do today. They chose to quarantine themselves completely during an outbreak of the bubonic plague in 1665, allowing no-one in or out of the village, even having to bury their own dead. This self-imposed quarantine did successfully contain the spread of the disease, demonstrating their care for other people in neighbouring communities.
Yet as cases in the UK continue to spiral, with stricter social restrictions back in place: is everyone doing what they can to protect themselves and others? Yesterday alone, the UK had more deaths than Australia has had throughout the entire pandemic.
With this new strain of the virus being more transmissible, if we don’t comply with the restrictions in place, it is inevitably going to cause more deaths. Dr Matt Butler, a consultant at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, spoke yesterday during a corona cast to headteachers, and explained that although they don’t think this new strain is any more deadly, its increased virulence will cause more deaths, than a more deadly virus would cause. This is because with more people catching coronavirus, more will progress to severe disease and there will be more fatalities. As well as the devastation to individual families, this risks overwhelming the NHS. Being a working parent of two young children himself, he understands just how difficult it is to home school children, however he said that just because something is hard it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. We have a civic and moral duty to abide by the restrictions and stay at home whenever we can.
Compliance has been one of the most misunderstood and misrepresented concepts of this pandemic. During the first wave of the virus back in the spring, research indicated that over 97% showed good compliance with the rules, with no meaningful decrease from March to May. It was only as lockdown was eased that compliance began to decrease. Partly, people felt the situation was safer. But other factors contributed too. For many, the new rules were simply too complex to understand. While during lockdown 90% of adults in the UK reported feeling they understood the rules, by August this figure was just 45% in England. Conflicting rules across UK nations, frequent changes to rules, and confusion about dates of announcement (as opposed to dates of implementation) exacerbated the situation.
A few but vocal few have also developed more extreme views. Last March people gathered to clap our neighbours working in the NHS. We have seen on the news recently, exhausted health care staff, coming off long shifts in PPE on covid wards, being greeted in car parks by protestors, unmasked, shouting about coronavirus being a hoax.
Other factors are important as predictors of compliance, too. Some of these have been demonstrated during previous pandemics: older adults and women are typically better at following rules to stop the spread of viruses. But others have emerged more specifically during Covid-19. The more privileged within society (wealthier and more educated) were more compliant during the first lockdown as their privilege supported their ability to follow the rules: more opportunities to work from home, spacious homes and gardens to lock down in, and a strong infrastructure, from good social support networks to scheduled food deliveries.
But as the pandemic has continued, this same privilege has been associated with a higher propensity to bend the rules. Money has bought a way out of social restrictions, from providing second homes in the country to retreat to (taking new strains of the virus with them), to enabling holidays abroad to escape more stringent UK measures. Some people have begun to second guess the virus, meeting up with friends against guidelines because they’re “being sensible” or it “won’t do any harm”.
When we are reminded of the urgency and danger of the situation, with stricter restrictions and daily news updates on the shocking number of cases and daily deaths, our sense of duty can return. Everyone needs to play their part, regardless of age, status or privilege. Any exemptions or modifications of rules can affect the compliance of others and sends a message that the rules are mere guidelines and personal sacrifices are not necessary. This is undoubtedly very difficult for all families and we all wish we weren’t back in another national lockdown but to care for others we all need to play our part. Compliance needs to be modelled as the norm. Modelling good compliance is the responsibility of us all to protect ourselves, our families and our communities.
If you haven’t made a new year’s resolution yet, let following the restrictions be the top of all of our lists and let this be the resolution that we work hardest to keep.
6th January 2021
Remote learning - not what any of us would choose but here we are
The first days in school were not anything we would have chosen but this is where we find ourselves and it seems we have two choices: to rant and complain or to channel our inner sanguine, mask up and crack on with a very difficult situation. We are choosing the second option.
I would like to extend my thanks to the staff here: admin, premises and teaching staff who have pulled off a feat: moving in 24 hours from plans for Tier 4 with full school opening to the current lockdown, as promised, 24 hours after Prime Minister Johnson's announcement. Admin staff, premises and teaching staff alike pulled out all the stops; many had to be kicked out so Mr Jones could lock up and I know were in touch with each other well into the evening. Thanks to our governor Mrs Rocke, who was briefly in the SLT chat, sorting out some issues about Google classroom well into the night.
Thank you for all the lovely kind messages and good wishes. Unlike the last lockdown where we had four days' notice, this time it was 8pm notice of next day. I am sorry for the undoubted difficulty that sudden shutting for all children so we could prepare caused folks at home.
While our priority has had to be opening for all since September still in the middle of a pandemic and throughout the last lockdown (we should remember this is the third) we have given some thought to the event of whole school closure. Plans will continue to evolve as our efforts were elsewhere until Sunday night and won't be right straight away. We work in an even more imperfect world right now so perfect answers that suit everyone just aren't on the menu I'm afraid. This is why I have called our first online parent/carer meeting at 5pm today and we hope you can attend.
Among the lots of kind messages and support, frustrations and difficulties have also been shared. Mrs R-B and I were on a remote meeting with Dr Matt Butler, the consultant at Addenbrookes hospital in Cambridge who has been supporting school leaders throughout the pandemic. His advice has been invaluable and his insights and information shared today are why we have called a late notice parent/carer meeting. Staff and governors are also invited as it is important we are all on the same page. I would like to clarify our position in the light of Dr Butler's 'grave concerns' about the current situation the country and the NHS faces. This meeting will be important not only for those of you supporting learning at home but equally to those of you with more vulnerable children or who are critical workers. You can view the meeting with Dr Butler here.
Very kind regards and I hope to see you later this afternoon.
Ms S :-)